A memo addressed to Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz and Florida State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, which was sent on December 28 and posted to social media on Wednesday by DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin, told the officials to gather data on diversity initiatives in the higher education system as the Florida legislature begins to consider budget proposals.
“It is important that we have a full understanding of the operational expenses of state institutions,” the memo said. “This letter is a request for information from the Department of Education and the State University System regarding the expenditure of state resources on programs and initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and critical race theory within our state colleges and universities.”
For each initiative, university administrators were told to include a brief description of the program, the number of staff positions associated with the program, the total funding used to support the program, and the portion of the funding that came from taxpayer dollars.
Numerous reports have noted the inflow of capital into the nascent diversity sector, which garnered attention following the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. Public universities in Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, and Illinois employed diversity officials who pocketed salaries ranging from $329,000 to $430,000, according to a report from Fox News, while an analysis from the Heritage Foundation found that colleges hire an average of three diversity staffers for every 100 tenured faculty.
“State legislatures, boards of higher education, and university trustees should investigate the extent of resources devoted to DEI personnel at the universities they oversee and subsidize,” the conservative think tank concluded. “Stakeholders should demand evidence about whether DEI resources are necessary and effective for achieving appropriate goals.”
DeSantis, who entered a second term as chief executive of the Sunshine State after a landslide reelection victory, has enacted a number of reforms meant to combat the spread of Critical Race Theory. The official signed Senate Bill 1108 and House Bill 233 into law two years ago; the former piece of legislation “requires state college and state university students to take both a civic literacy course and a civic literacy assessment as a graduation requirement,” while the latter “requires state colleges and universities to conduct annual assessments of the viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom at their institutions.”
Reforms in the primary and secondary education systems drew ire from leftists as media outlets and large corporations contended that the new parental rights laws discriminated against proponents of the LGBTQ movement. One such statute prohibited instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for students between kindergarten and third grade.
“We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups, and we must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology,” DeSantis reiterated during his second inaugural address. “We will enact more family-friendly policies to make it easier to raise children and we will defend our children against those who seek to rob them of their innocence.”